Rothenburger: Manure for sale, frozen or fresh

We received a flyer in our mailbox this week. "Manure sale," it said.

Horse manure, $6.50 a bag. "Order now."

I wonder if the vendor really thought through his marketing program.

Advertising manure for sale in Blacks Pines is quite a bit like carrying coals to Newcastle or trying to sell snow to the Inuit. If there's one thing we don't need more of in Black Pines, it's manure.

Manure we've got. Cow manure. Horse manure. Pack-rat manure. Chicken manure. Coyote manure. When the coyotes eat the chickens there's a whole thing that goes on with texture, and the dung beetles (which normally can reduce a good heap to dust in a couple of hours) don't know what to do with it.

Those who deal with manure on a daily basis will tell you this past winter has been challenging - all this snowing, melting, freezing, raining, freezing, snowing, melting and freezing.

It's tough to do much with a pile of manure that has been rained on and then frozen. You could take a pick and shovel to it, but the average horse contentedly creates around 10 piles a day (roughly a wheelbarrow full) and if you're dealing with more than one animal you can see the extent of the problem.

I expect cows produce even more, though collecting cow pies requires a different technique than gathering up horse droppings.

At $6.50 a bag, on an average morning sweep of the premises I'd be doing a good $120 or so worth of business. I assure you I'm not so anal about manure that I go around looking for it in the pastures, but I do like a fresh stall and a fresh corral for The Boys.

The best strategy usually is to wait for a melt. That hasn't worked of late, because of wild temperature swings. You can go from frozen piles of poop to mud bogs full of it in 24 hours. You can't shovel a mud bog full of poop - it's like shoveling borscht.

The farrier came the other day to trim The Boys. I was a little embarrassed about the poor state of their environs, not to mention the fact they're caked in about an inch of mud because they can't find anywhere to sleep or roll that isn't mud.

"Everybody's horses are muddy right now," he acknowledged, as our dog chewed on a tasty toenail clipping - we call them Nature's chew sticks - fresh off a hind hoof. "Everybody's yards are messy."

So, no, we won't be requiring any manure this spring. We're good.

The Boys and myself aren't the only ones feeling the effects of this strange weather, either. The geese are back, but they came in too soon and the ice is still on our part of the river, so they're hanging around the hayfields feeling sorry for themselves. Some have figured to hell it and headed south again.

With respect to the horse manure offer, I'm thinking an over-zealous distributor got confused over where Westsyde ends and manure country begins. Closer to town, maybe there really is a shortage.

Not that city folk are without their challenges. If you're a townie, and are down-hearted because it will soon be time to clean up a winter's worth of Fluffy's land mines, spare a pitying thought for your country cousins.

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